We live in strange times indeed. A world of pandemics and masks. A world where politics seems to have been turned out on its head. A time of great churn and a time when nothing stands still. The biggest mover in these best of times and worst of times is the media. Not the old media of newspapers and magazines but of social media.
Social media has become the driver of politics that we see around us. Along with it is the almost complete overturning of the means of production as we know it. Everything has become dependent on the internet. Internet is the driver of the economy and increasingly of politics in the world today.
The entire political spectrum is going through a change today. The certainties of yesterday are today changing so rapidly that they have become distant memories.
In the middle of it, the most contested idea has become the idea of globalisation. An idea which even 10 years ago was so certain that any criticism of it would have been laughed off. In fact, ironically the more the world has become globalised, whether it be in production chains or thoughts and ideas, the more there has been a backlash against it.
The backlash has no doubt been aided by the strange fact that the entire basis of globalisation based on an unlimited free market economy has been based on China which has become the factory of the world. China has been and still remains a closed society and in large places a strictly controlled economy. So, while the watchword for the internet of things remains the idea of free movement of goods across boundaries and peoples likes and choices being supreme, the entire basis of the said system has increasingly become based on a single state-controlled economy. This has allowed China to have huge controlling power over globalisation and the free market. A power which has been used ruthlessly.
The second reason for the growing backlash is that globalisation has seen that all the ideas of globalisation had been cornered by a few elite institutions of the west. These very few institutions based in Europe and America have become the gatekeepers of all knowledge, of values, of cultural norms and mores of the world. Even though some of the norms and conceptions are completely at variance with what the people of the rest of the world think, or even what most of their country thinks. The entire predication of the idea of globalisation has been a concept which has been held together by a narrative which was not only coming out from these institutions, but also these institutions projected to the rest of the world, as to who they should choose as leaders and whom they should refuse.
The third reason is the strange globalisation which we witnessed was underpinned by two sets of contradictory and yet strangely complimenting ideas of economic libertarianism and social liberalism. Social liberalism, that is “anything goes” in society became so much a credo in the narrative of globalisation that life and liberty of every type came to be sacrificed to it. The irony as always was that ruthless oppression came in the guise of liberty, just as they did during the French Revolution. Economic libertarianism also became such a strange fact that the entire market of the world was segregated to the benefit of China and to the benefit of a few internet companies which employed literally no one but controlled the global economy. Companies which made governments yet as Nicolas Taleb said “Had no skin in the game”. These two ideas fed off each other and used each other almost as hand maidens, to the extent that it almost seems that the values they espoused were inevitable.
The fourth reason is that these two forces created a hybrid elite, which arose out of different parts of the world, yet espoused the same values globally. They had the power to destroy any one who attempted to counter them. To this end they used the power of social media.
Social media itself was in the beginning a liberating tool, however over a period of time it came to be manipulated by these elites to destroy their opposition. It became a tool to foment revolution and rebellion against anyone whom the thought leaders found inconvenient across the world. It also became at times a tool to spread hate and violence.
The fifth was the politics of minority identity or in other words the idea of intersectionality, that is the politics to get together the widest groups of minorities so as to overturn the majority of every country. The logic being if everyone is a minority, then there is no resistance to globalisation as only a majority of any country can theoretically stand up against globalisation. But in actuality it was a clear attempt to ensure that globalised companies don’t have to answer to locally powerful governments.
The backlash, lead to the return of conservative values. Conservative with a big C . People who in the glowing era of the 1990s had given up their attachment to their countries in the search of a global utopia, or as Francis Fukuyama once said “The End of History”, realised that history never actually ends. What we see today and what we see across the world, is a death match between the old forces of globalisation and the renewed love for country and people which seem to have arisen.
The tide was foreseen in Hungary with the election of Viktor Orban, and then over a period of time, in country after country the same was repeated. The seminal elections of Brexit, the successive elections of Benjamin Netanyahu, Shinzo Abe, and the victory of Donald Trump clearly shows that the world had chosen to move back to the fundamentals of governance which it had been used to for hundreds of years.
The basic tenets of the new conservativism, is a love for one’s country and its people. The basis of governance and the answerability of the government does not lie at the feet of academics of elite institutions and global internet corporations but with the people of the country.
In many ways the conservative movement is driven by a feeling of resentment against the elites which have dominated society through the era of globalisation which started after the fall of the Berlin Wall. The idea of new conservativism has also been driven by the idea of turning their back on globalisation and free movement and a turn inwards to the national cultures of their countries, an example being Poland recently.
Most importantly the new idea of Conservatism breaks from the old ideas of Conservatism in its concern for the poor and the middle class, who have been the greatest victims of unrestrained globalisation.
However there has also been a growing trend of extremist global leftist violent movements which has been egged on by global corporate supporters who have benefitted enormously from the internet explosion all over the world. These have been violent and at the core held and lead by leftists and Marxists in the new world, except that their Marxism has been couched in “post-modernist” terms. These supporters are those who wanted to be part of the elites which were so much in demand during the age of globalisation and are so removed from their own culture and country that they have increasingly identified themselves as a global group for global causes. These supporters are not wealthy or even the direct beneficiaries of globalisation but are supporters, almost messianic, of the globalist dream. A strange coagulation of leftist and libertarian ideas.
Over all what we see today is a growing conflict with the fraying of the liberal, libertarian consensus which underpinned the idea of globalisation for more than 30 years. It seems apparent that the Conservatives all over the world have tried and with the help of the people snatched back the people’s freedom, but the irony is that victory is not completely certain and the waves against them are strong and the outcome is still in play.
As Nationalists in India, the biggest lesson that we have learnt from the last 30 years, is that India cannot be tethered to conceptions and undercurrents which do not have India at its heart. The call of the Hon’ble Prime Minister to break from the past and create an Ātmanirbhar Bhārat in line with a New India, is the only way forward.
It is important that we remain, part of the world and yet outside the undercurrents, strong, resilient, vibrant and a beacon to the rest of the world as “Vishwa Guru”.
(The writer is a senior jurist and political thinker. Views expressed are personal)
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